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Re: an argument for existance

Posted by alexandra_k on October 27, 2004, at 19:40:29

In reply to Re: an argument for existance alexandra_k, posted by rayww on October 27, 2004, at 16:16:11

PASCAL'S WAGER

I am currently having an argument with my office mates about Pascal's wager. I couldn't think of a sensible response to it, but one of my office mates suggested the following analogy:

You could use the same argument to show that it is more rational to believe in the existence of bogeymen than to not believe in bogeymen.

I want to say that this analogy leads to a reductio ad absurdum of Pascal's wager. Clearly it is most rational to NOT believe in the existence of bogeymen (given what we know about the world) and thus there must be something wrong or illegitimate about the form of Pascal's wager.

But my office mates don't agree with the above paragraph. One of them is now convinced that it is more rational to believe in bogeymen, so... I don't know. As they say, one mans modus ponens (belief in bogeymen) is another mans modus tollens (reductio ad absurdum). Sigh. Who said philosophy was easy?

[And now he tells me that it is not an argument about beliefs, it is an argument about how it is best to act. (He made me write that). But we have already agreed that the measure of belief is action, and social practice so maybe that is more a technical point...]

MIRACLES AS CONTRARY TO LAWS OF NATURE

Regarding miracles, it is probably useful to get clearer on what we mean by miracles. Hume thought that a miracle was something that went contrary to laws of nature.

"A miracle is a violation of a law of nature, and a law of nature is a process whereby certain kinds of events are (absent intervention) always followed by a definite kind of other event. For example, the law of gravitation entails that within the Earth's gravitational zone objects will fall downward toward Earth at an acceleration of 32.17 feet per second, and we have no record of a counterinstance to this.

[But then]

This notion of a miracle as a violation of a law of nature has been disputed on the basis of the contention that in the Bible, which is the witness to the most significant alleged miracles in the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is no concept of nature as a closed system of law. For the biblical writers, miracles signify, in the words of R. H. Fuller, simply an "extrordinary coincidence of beneficial nature"'

Pojman, L. P.,"Philosophy of Religion" p82.

I think that you are more into the second rather than the first???

Humes argument (against miracles) is that
1. One ought to proportion one's belief to the evidence.
2. Sense perception is generally better evidence than testimony (if for no other reason than that valid testimony is based on another's sense experience).
3. Therefore, when there is a conflict between sense experience and testimony, one ought to believe according to sense perception.
4. Sense perception does not reveal any miracles to us (but rather the presumption of natural law prevails).
5. Therefore, we are never justified in believing in miracles, but we are justified in believing in the naturalness of all events.

"Although Hume concedes that miracles are theorietically possible, he argues that the case against them is so cogent and comprehensive that we are never warranted in believing that they occur. His main argument is from the regularity of nature. Becasue we have had innumerable instances confirming the law of nature, the probability for events to conform to it must be enormous. And because we have enormous evidence in favour of the uniformity of nature, every testimony of a miracle must be weighed againsst that preponderance and be found wanting. On the probability scale the likelihood of a miracle happening will virtually always be outweighed by a law of nature. But what if we believe that we personally have beheld a miracle? Aren't we justified in believing one in that case? No, for given the principle of induction (that every time we pursue an event far enough, we discover it to have a natural cause), we are still not justified in believing the event to be a miracle. Rather, we ought to look further (far enough) until we discover the natural cause. The only exception to this rule (or "proof" against miracles) is if it would be even more miraculous for a miracle not to have occurred: "That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more marvelous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish"

Hume, in Poijman, p.84.

But that only works against miracles if they are construed as something contrary to laws of nature

 

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poster:alexandra_k thread:402858
URL: http://www.dr-bob.org/babble/faith/20040914/msgs/408101.html